5 ways working students can cut child care costs
Life as a working student is a challenge. Add parenting and the cost of child care to the mix, and it might seem impossible. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are five ways you can reduce child care expenses so you can focus more on your studies:
1. Child care tax credit
Paying for child care can save you money at tax time. The IRS allows working parents and some full-time students to take an annual tax credit for child care expenses.
You can deduct up to 35 percent of your annual child care costs for a maximum of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children. The IRS provides 10 guidelines about claiming the child care credit.
2. Flexible spending plans
These plans allow you to set aside pre-tax money from your paycheck for child care costs, reducing your overall taxable income.
IRS rules let you contribute up to $5,000 per year to one of these plans. You’ll need to check with your human resource department to see if your employer offers them. However, you cannot use a flexible spending plan and the child care tax credit concurrently, so run the numbers and determine which offers you the best overall savings. In addition, consider discussing these options with a tax professional or accountant before making any decisions.
3. Public assistance
Depending on your state, income level and other factors, you may qualify for public child care assistance, which can reduce or even eliminate your out-of-pocket child care costs. Check with your local social services agency to see if you qualify. The University of Phoenix Life Resource Center can also help connect you with support options where you live.
One way working students can reduce child care expenses is to find ways to include children in their study activities. That strategy works for Jennifer Blaxon, a single mother of two school-age boys and a University of Phoenix student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in the business administration program.
“My kids and I make studying a group thing,” she says. “That way, they can study, I can study, and it becomes family bonding time.”
Rae-Ann Servais, University of Phoenix student, military spouse and mother of a 2-year-old daughter, also combines parenting with studying. “I do [my schoolwork] in the morning when my daughter is busy with her milk and a cartoon,” she notes.
Servais takes advantage of her daughter’s nap times to keep up with work toward her degree in the information systems security program.
5. Extracurricular activities
Involving your kids in outside activities such as sports, dance lessons and art classes provides enrichment for them and study time for you — often at a lower overall cost than hiring a babysitter.
Blaxon attests to how well this strategy can work. “My oldest son plays baseball, and my youngest plays football,” she explains. “This also gives me more time to focus on my schoolwork, while incorporating discipline and hard work into my children.”